Thursday, December 01, 2016

A FEW PORKIES – THERE’S NO NEED TO BE CRABBY!



The resort on Newry Island no longer exists...National Parks now have control, after knocking down all the buildings.  Depicted here in the above pic is where the main building once stood.  The building shown is an open, picnic shed of sorts. Nowadays permits must be given by National Parks for people to visit the island.  It has been said people are woken at night by a spirit that haunts the island....don't tell anyone, but it's me!!

Uncooked mud crab

Randall & me...circa 1982...with a feast of mud crabs he and a mate caught in Lake Weyba. Lake Weyba is out the back of Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast. We were living on the coast at the time.

These last two pics are of Lake Weyba

 

Presently a piece of shoulder pork sits patiently in my fridge in readiness for roasting.  In the meanwhile I sit here impatiently drooling over the thought of the final outcome.

 

My appetite is already whetted and tormented, so I’ll share my torment with you. Every time I open my fridge door I see the glorious piece of meat sitting there waiting for me to do wonderful things to it! I can’t wait to get my teeth around its crisp, golden crackling.  However, before then a few motions have to be set into motion to reach that point.

 

The skin is already scored.   When I begin preparing it for roasting, I’ll sit the piece of pork on a rack in my kitchen sink, and then I’ll pour boiling water all over the pork skin.  This action will open up the scoring.   Once I’ve thoroughly dried the piece of pork with paper towels, I’ll liberally rub olive oil over and into the skin.  Then I’ll halve a lemon and rub the halves over the skin. Next steps I’ll take will be to liberally rub salt and Chinese Five Spice powder into the skin. 

 

You don’t have to be a licensed masseur to do these steps, but it would help…so pretend you are!  Be gentle, but firm…be liberal!

 

It’s funny the things we remember…well, speaking for myself, anyway….I’m the only one I can speak for….

 

A glorious roast shoulder of pork I cooked and ate way back in 1975 remains in my memory. 

 

Late November, 1974 Randall (who later became my husband and, later still, my ex) had returned to Brisbane from his New York stint and further world-wide odyssey that had lasted nine years.  He and I were living together in my unit in Toowong - a western, inner-city suburb of the city of Brisbane. We’d not yet bought our little worker’s cottage, our first house property purchase, a few doors up in the same street, nor had we yet married.  Oh!  Dear!  We were living in sin!  No…we were living in pleasure and happiness!

 

It was a mid-week night.  On my way home from work I’d purchased a small shoulder of pork from my favourite butcher, whose name was "Virgil".  At the time,  the butcher shop was situated on Milton Road, Auchenflower, the suburb just before Toowong. The butchers catered to the working public and never closed shop until around 6.30 pm, weekdays; a practice which was very convenient.

 

I can still taste that wonderful piece of roasted pork.  This statement probably sounds odd to some, but it was such a sweet, juicy, tender piece of pork, memorable in every way.  It was as sweet as fresh crab meat.  I’m sure if I mentioned it to Randall on the phone today, he, too, would remember that special piece of pork, and agree with my assessment of it.  The meal hadn’t started out being special…it was just a “roast dinner”, but on the evening I hit the jackpot with that piece of meat.

 

On the subject of pork (and I’m telling no porkies) - I’m also reminded of a particular day when I was living on Newry Island, and running the little, very low-key, relaxed resort thereon.  

 

When I arrived on the island the large freezer in the room (the room also housed the laundry area, among other things) at the rear of the kitchen was filled with “unknowns”.  It was unknown to me how long the frozen goods had been there. 

 

Rather than take any risks, I decided to get rid of suspect items.  I’m always of the mind…and  I always have been…(and particularly when I was cooking professionally)…I’d rather toss away than take the chance of poisoning anyone…including myself!  So if I’m unsure about something…I don’t question…I just toss!  I never take risks as far as food is concerned.

 

I decided to discard a few large legs of pork (four or five from memory), which I believed had been too long in the freezer.

 

Together with some aged, frozen, rich orange-coloured, cooked mud crabs that I also believed had lived too long in the freezer, I tossed the huge pork legs (by the size of them, they were probably from some old wild boar caught in the wilds) into the ocean, knowing they’d eventually be carried out to sea and become fodder for the abundant sea creatures.  As much as it hurt me to throw away mud crabs, the ones in the freezer had been hiding in there since before I stepped foot on the island…or even before I set two feet on the sand.

 

Every morning just after dawn I’d do a run down behind the generator shed, past the cabins on the foreshore to a garden plot a fair distance away. It was also an area where I’d burn off rubbish, and also bury any waste that would quickly decompose into mulch.  

 

I did eventually gain some sense.  I started a garden plot out from the main building, between it and the generator shed, making access much easier for me, rather than having to traipse all the way to the plot that had come into existence before my arrival on the scene.  Having a garden close to where all the action was made more sense to me.

 

I’d get all similar “hands-on” chores done before any boats and humans from the “outside” world arrived to the island.  It was the only time, between dawn and around 7 to 7.30 am I could get such chores done.   The cleaning of vacated cabins had to be done, when possible, during those hours, too.   It was all systems go!

 

Once the day began, in proper, I had to be back around the main buildings…the bar, dining, cabins and nearby surrounding outer areas.

 

The morning after the discarding of the uncooked pork and the cooked mud crabs a boat full of unexpected island visitors arrived before I’d had a chance to go down to the beach.   I was still been mucking about in the kitchen, and/or laundry.  I’d been up early, as was my habit. And it was then around 8.00 am or thereabouts  I heard a boat motor  People were arriving, unannounced, other than for the sound their boat motor.  They’d not been bookings; they were obviously day-trippers.

 

The boat was slowly edging towards the shore as I arrived at the water’s edge.  It was still a few metres out from where I was…between me and where my boat was moored at the drop-off; in the channel between Newry Island and Outer Newry Island.  

 

A couple of little kids, along with their parents who were guests on the island raced down to the gently-lapping ocean to greet the interlopers.

 

And then I saw them!  No…not the interlopers….worse!

 

Floating, without a care in the world, between me and the incoming boat were the pork legs and the cooked mud crabs!

 

Oops!  You can imagine my panic and embarrassment!

 

In the tossing of the pork and crabs I hadn’t taken into consideration the first incoming tide would bring them back to the ocean’s edge during the night.  A second tide would have carried them out to where they belonged…but not enough time had transpired between tossing and tides!

 

As I stood waist-deep in water with my arms and legs flailing in a frantic attempt to drown the offenders out of the way of prying, inquisitive eyes - (I didn't have enough arms and legs to keep all the pork legs and crabs beneath the water out of human sight.  I was failing miserably at my extreme efforts) - a little boy yelled out excitedly;

 

“Look Mum!  Mud crabs!”

 

“Yeah,” I replied dementedly. “I’m lucky. My mud crabs come already cooked here!”


Roast Pork Shoulder:  Remove 1.5kg to 2.5kg pork shoulder from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and place on a chopping board. Prepare it as described above (or how you prefer to prepare roast pork e.g. dry the pork all over with a kitchen towel. Mix salt and pepper together; rub the mix on top of the skin and into the scoring). Preheat oven to 220°C, fan - 200°C, gas 7. Place pork in a large roasting tin; roast for 25mins before reducing the heat to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Calculate the remaining cooking time allowing 25 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 30 minutes. If the crackling starts to become too dark, cover with a loose piece of foil. 45 minutes before the end of cooking time add 4-5 green apples, halved horizontally, cut side up right and 3 or 4 quartered red onions (or as desired). Baste with the pork juices. 20 minutes before the end of cooking time stir the sage into the cooking juices and baste the apples and onions. After the cooking time, remove the pork, apples and onions from oven. Check the meat juices run clear. If the juices are pink continue roasting for a further 10-15 minutes or until the juices run clear. Transfer to a warm serving plate. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest, 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, to make the gravy: place the roasting tin over a med-heat and stir 1tbs plain flour vigorously into the meat juice. Slowly add 400ml apple cider; cook 3-4 mins or until thickened.  To serve, remove the crackling from the pork; break in to pieces. Carve pork into thick slices; serve straight away with pieces of crackling, apples, onions, roast potatoes, pumpkin, carrots (whatever vegetables you feel like) along with steamed greens of choice, and the cider gravy.  The only vegetables I peel are onions...but, of course, the choice to peel or not to peel is your own!

Balsamic Roast Pork: Preheat oven 180C; season 1.5kg boneless pork loin with freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large pan to smoking point; add meat; seal on all sides for 3-4mins until golden brown. Transfer to roasting dish. In pan, melt 50g unsalted butter; add 2 red onions, cut into 8 wedges and 15g fresh, chopped rosemary. Sauté for 5mins until onion has softened. Tip into the roasting tin; pour over 125ml balsamic vinegar. Make sure the pork is well coated. Place in oven; cook for 40-45mins, stirring onions occasionally and basting the pork. 40mins before pork is ready add 6 small green apples, halved and pour over another 125ml balsamic vinegar. When apples are tender and pork is cooked, remove pork from roasting tin; allow to stand 10mins before carving. Place apples in serving dish; cover and keep warm until read to serve. Stir some dry white wine into roasting juices; simmer 3-4mins over medium heat. Serve with pork and apples.

Roast Pork Loin with Horseradish Crust: Preheat oven 220C. In heavy skillet, cook 1c fresh breadcrumbs in 1tbl olive oil, salt and pepper over medium heat until golden. Transfer bread crumbs to a bowl; toss well with 2tbls bottled horseradish. Pat 2kg piece boneless loin pork dry; season with salt and pepper. In skillet heat 1tbl oil over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking; brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer pork to a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl, mix 1.5tbls each Dijon mustard and mayonnaise; coat top and sides of pork evenly with mixture. Press bread crumb mixture evenly onto mustard; roast pork in middle of oven 25-30mins (if bread crumbs begin to get too browned, arrange a sheet of foil loosely over pork). Transfer pork to a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes.

Lemon Pork Scallopini: Brush 2 pork scallopini on both sides with 1/4c Italian dressing; season with lemon pepper; set aside. Mix together 1/3c each plain flour and grated Parmesan cheese on shallow plate. Coat pork generously; shake off excess. Heat 1-2tbls butter and a dash or two of lemon juice in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Quickly cook scallopini, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes, buttered broccoli spears, sliced tomatoes with blue cheese vinaigrette.  

Mud Crabs: There are other ways to cook and serve mud crabs, but I prefer them cooked and served simply.   I eat them just with vinegar, and/or lemon (I love my vinegar, though) along with fresh bread and butter…even the bread and butter is optional!  Why spoil something near perfect, or perfect?


How to cook mud crabs: Wash the securely-tied mud crabs thoroughly (otherwise you might get a nasty nip)!  Place the mud crabs in the freezer for 35 minutes.

Add 4-5 tbsp salt to a pot of water (about 5 litres of water per crab) and bring to the boil. Place the now unconscious, deep-sleeping mud crabs into the boiling pot of water. Bring the pot to the boil again; and then cook for 18 minutes.  (Depending on size...the smaller ones require about 12-15 minutes; the larger ones, about 18 minutes). Cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving; or longer if you desire – if you can wait that long!  I never can wait very long!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE, MEN...AND ME!







And then everything goes awry! While mindlessly watching television (or watching mindless television) I’d spent the night before putting everything into order in my mind, plotting what I intended to do the following day – getting “my ducks in a row”. Disclaimer - No ducks were harmed in the process.   

Before nodding off my plans for the morrow were set, if not in cement, in some semblance of sequence.  I went to sleep content I’d wake up after a few hours of restful repose with a semi-structured form already laid out.  Once I’d returned to a conscious state I’d do this and then do that.  Having completed this and that I’d perhaps even get started on the other thing/s I’d been ignoring for a while. Who knew...if my organisational disposition was such...I might also methodically arrange and back-up in an orderly manner data on my computer hard drive; data that needed storing like winter woollies at winter’s end.   

I drifted off into dreamland; my plans laid before I lay at rest. The plans may not have been in a determined distribution, but were, at best, laid.  All might not have been in apple-pie order (probably more like a deconstructed apple crumble);  but my plans were made and laid for chores to be done, one after the other; squared away, even if not in alphabetical order. 

Off to a good start, I woke the next morning.  Phew!  Things were already going to plan from the get-go. Tick!  Once I kick-started my coffee machine I made a bee-line for the bathroom to shower etc., and then I went outside to kick-start my car...nothing!   

It was as dead as a doornail. Apparently, doornails have been dead since the 1300s through until now.  Nothing will bring them back to life it seems.  Charles Dickens in his “A Christmas Carol” rekindled the saying by declaring – “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail”.  Poor old Marley and me!

Anyway, returning to my great start (or non-start) to the day.  I lifted the bonnet of my car. I’m not sure what that was going to solve, or what I was trying to prove, but I did it anyway.  At least I didn’t find what I found a couple of months ago when I lifted said bonnet.  Then I found a massive nest as high as the Gold Coast’s Q1 and equal in circumference, had been constructed to the side of the oil tank.  The tenants had absconded without paying their rent, taking their bond money with them. Cheeky little critters! 

Knowing my limitations, I made a phone call. I still had a phone at that stage; I’ll elaborate in a moment!  

Two of our mountain’s finest came to my rescue.  Firstly, Rob, the very dashing mobile mechanic arrived in his trusty dark blue steed.  In no time at all he got me started. Or rather - Rob got my car started.  He pointed me in the direction of Chris who has lots of spare parts...auto spare parts, that is.  So, with the help of those two fine gentlemen - in the words of Willie Nelson – I was “on the road again”. 

The day that had started off with a hiccup got better as it went along.   

The icing on the cake was the generosity of spirit of Kyle, my computer man, who went over and beyond the call of duty to attend to a problem a friend of mine had been having with his computer.  

Four hours after leaping out of bed I finally managed to enjoy a cup of coffee.

That was Monday.  And in the words of Scarlett O'Hara...."After all, tomorrow is another day!"

Come Tuesday, the Energex tree-lopping mob arrived in this laneway to cut back tree limbs and branches along the side of the roadway.   

Energex  is an electric power distribution company owned by the Queensland Government.

I thought I’d been transported back to the Middle Ages.  At any moment I was expecting King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table to appear; or at least, Monty Python!  I looked around in the hope of finding some armour to don because I felt I would need it to save my skin and skull.  It was as if my cabin and I were being bombarded by a dozen, fully-loaded medieval catapults!  Missiles were smashing against my exterior walls with great force and noise.  I feared at any moment one, or more, would come crashing through a window.

Thoughtlessly and recklessly the fellow operating the monstrosity of a machine cut my phone line...snap! 

Blind Freddy would be able to see there is a tall pole there with a line attached - with a white post attached informing everyone a telephone line is attached!!

The fateful blow was struck noon Tuesday.

I’m the Last of the Mohicans.  I don’t have a mobile/cell phone.  I’m dependent upon landline.   I was left without phone usage, and with no Internet.  I was in the middle of doing something, using the Net to do it when...nothing!

Realising immediately what had most likely happened (similar had happened a couple or so years ago) I raced outside.  Read – “hobbled”. 

These days I can’t race anywhere because of my bad hips; so hobble it is.  I probably wouldn’t win a hobble race, either...but then if I was being chased by an angry bull, it might be a different story!

I tossed vanity aside quite a while back, if I ever did suffer from vanity.  I doubt I ever did. Either which way, I replaced it with sensibility.  I use a cane. 

Living alone, with tiled floors, one of my greatest fears is slipping on a wet floor, hitting my head and being knocked out.  Living the life I do, I could be laying there forever before anyone discovered me.  So, yes, I use a cane...because I have to use a cane.

I’m not as agile as I once was.  I turned 72 a couple of weeks ago, and after many years working long hours, on my feet, on hard surfaces; covering large areas and lifting heavy weights that I suppose I shouldn’t having been lifting, but had no choice other than to do so, my hips (and arthritis therein or on) said “enough is enough, already)!  Like us all when we’re younger, I believed I was infallible.  It’s funny how Life has its own script.

Fortunately, I realised what had happened to my phone when I did.  Grabbing my walking stick I hurried as best I could hurry outside.  I could see the phone line lying on the ground, and I could hear men’s voices in the distance – down the end of this lane.

They were packing up their equipment and ready to load the huge “chopping” machine onto the back of a truck, and drive away never to be seen again until the next time.  I needed to catch them before they disappeared.

Fighting my way through the trees and the debris left behind from the chopping and lopping, I bellowed out as loudly as I could...a few times...to the men. 

Finally, one heard me...and he alerted his mates...probably saying, “Hey! Look!  I wonder what that old hag wants!  Halloween is over, isn’t it?”

One decided to break away from the herd and walk up to where I was.  I pointed out what they’d done, explaining my situation etc., etc.  I wasn’t rude; there was no need to be – a little cream gets the job done, not sour grapes; but I did impress the importance of having the line fixed as soon as possible.

The fellow told me he would tell his boss of my predicament, and that he would contact Telstra.  Telstra is Australia’s largest telecommunications etc., company.  I’ve been with them since before the Last Supper.

About an hour later, another Energex guy knocked on my door to let me know that they’d been in touch with Telstra and that my phone line would be re-attached late that afternoon.  I shook the fellow’s hand and thanked him for advising me of the progress.

No one turned up as promised.  

I knew I had to get in contact with Telstra first thing in the morning to shake them up a bit or otherwise my predicament could go on ad infinitum.   

I hate being beholden to anyone; and I hate asking others for anything, but I bit the bullet and went up to my landlords to ask if they could ring Telstra for me.  Other using homing/carrier pigeons or smoke signals I had no other choice.

Everything turned into a Cecil B. DeMille production, as it always does.  Nothing is ever simple!  Bends, curves and corners are created where none need exist.  I’m a “straight-down-the-line” person; one with little patience in some situations.  Hence, my preferring to solve problems myself...but, again, in this instance, I had no other choice!

I was forced to talk with someone in bloody Timbuktu, Uzbekistan (in actual fact - the Philippines) who spoke, of course, muddled English.   

After explaining in minute detail the problem I was experiencing; about how the phone line had been cut, and my telling her myriad times I didn’t have a mobile phone; that my phone line was broken and lying on the ground; and that I had no internet connection because of said problem...she insisted on asking me repeatedly for my mobile phone number and I could download such and such!  Also more than once she told me she would have someone test the “$#%^&%@” line!!!!!

By that stage, I think I had one strand of hair left...if that!  I had used up all the cream and I didn’t hold back how I was feeling!  One could not blame me, and I didn’t care if they did!  I was frustrated and angry to the limit and beyond!

A couple of other curve balls were thrown into the mix, but I won't go into that....

At noon Wednesday a very pleasant local fellow called “Roy” who is contracted by Telstra arrived to re-attach my phone line. 

We had fun conversation; he did the job and went on his way.  

And now, I’m back on air - as well as the road!

Duck Breast in Filo with Berry Compote: Combine 300m soy sauce, 3tbs honey, 1 crushed garlic clove and 1tbs grated ginger; pour marinade over 4 duck breasts; cover; chill overnight. Next day pour into saucepan; add 2c water; bring to simmer; simmer 12mins; remove duck; cool slightly; season. Grab 4 filo sheets; brush each sheet with melted butter; wrap a sheet around each breast; brush with butter. Bake parcels on oven tray at 200C, 15-20mins, until golden. Compote: Place dry saucepan over heat; add 100g coffee crystals or raw sugar; watch carefully; swirl from time to time until sugar melts and colours to caramel. Remove from heat; cool a little; carefully add 50ml Cointreau and 300ml of the marinade. Bring to boil, stirring; boil; reduce to half; add 50g each boysenberries, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries; bring to boil. Pour into 4 deep warm plates; place parcels on top.   Balsamic vinegar can be substituted for the Cointreau, if preferred.

Apple Crumble Slice: Preheat oven 180°C. Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with baking paper. Place 1x250g Scotch Finger biscuits (Arnott’s biscuits) and 100g butter in bowl; stir to combine. Press firmly into the base of the tin, smoothing the top with a spatula. Refrigerate to set. Place 6 peeled, cored, chopped green apples, 2tbs brown sugar, seeds of1 vanilla bean and 2 cinnamon sticks in a large saucepan over high heat; stir well. Cover; cook 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples have softened.  Remove from heat; stand, covered, 10 mins. Discard cinnamon sticks, roughly mash apples; spread over the biscuit base. Scatter with crushed Butternut Snap biscuits; bake 15 minutes or until golden. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until set before slicing.

Apple Gratin: Have 1/4c brown sugar and 125g chopped fresh or dried dates at the ready. Using 3-4 peeled and thinly sliced green apples, arrange a layer of apple slices over base of 20cm ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with 3tsp brown sugar and ¼ of dates. Repeat with remaining apple, sugar and dates to form 4 layers. Pour over 300ml cream; sprinkle with extra brown sugar; arrange extra chopped dates in the centre. Bake at 180C, 35-40mins; until apples are tender; serve warm with crème fraîche.

Coffee-Choc Pots:  Combine 1c milk, 1c thick cream and 2tbs lightly-crushed coffee beans in saucepan; bring slowly to boil. Stand 10mins; strain onto 150g finely-chopped dark chocolate; whisk until chocolate melts. Whisk 4 egg yolks and 40g vanilla sugar until well combined. Gently whisk in choc mixture; add 40ml Frangelico. Pour mixture into 4x180ml ramekins. Place in water bath, halfway up sides of pots; bake at 170C, 30mins. Let cool in the water 15mins. Serve at room temp, topped with thick cream and sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts.